Tuesday Reads: Double Trouble for Trump

Good Morning!!

The New York Times has published the second installment in its ongoing series on Trump’s taxes. But first, a recap of the revelations from the first blockbuster story and reactions from other sources.

Just Security has a good breakdown of the main revelations from the the first NYT article: Ten Quick Takeaways from the New York Times’ Bombshell Article on Trump’s Tax Returns. This is takeaway 2:

Trump appears to be an absolutely terrible businessman. This is a man who netted $606 million over nineteen years (from 2000 to 2018) through The Apprentice, licensing and endorsements, and investments and businesses run by others, and yet has created enormous financial peril for himself by buying prestige business properties for high prices, and then pouring cash into them without thereby generating positive net returns. Even with the cash infusions, his personally run businesses have continued to lose a great deal of money (even leaving aside depreciation deductions that might or might not be accompanied by actual declines in economic value). One therefore suspects that he is simply funding the negative cash flow, not creating new value that might pay off in the future. (Even the enhanced revenues at some U.S. properties from their being used by lobbyists have failed to eliminate the pattern of losing a great deal.)

Meanwhile, perhaps to fund the ongoing cash infusions, he has been taking out loans and making one-time asset sales that imply a danger of simply running out of money soon if there is no turnaround. The $421 million in personal liability debts that the Times says are due soon add to the impression of an approaching risk of financial breakdown. However, beyond just the financial peril that he may be facing, the pattern looks like one of recklessly and improvidently burning through one’s cash for as long as it lasts, rather than of investing prudently to create future value.

Adam Davidson of The New Yorker posted an interesting Twitter thread yesterday:

Davidson concludes: “Until we know who, we don’t know who this man owes and what they know about him.”

This is from Andrew Weissmann, one of the top prosecutors on the Robert Mueller team:

From The Washington Post: Trump’s debts and foreign deals pose security risks, former intelligence officials say.

ecurity teams at U.S. spy agencies are constantly scouring employee records for signs of potential compromise: daunting levels of debt, troubling overseas entanglements, hidden streams of income, and a penchant for secrecy or deceit to avoid exposure.

President Trump would check nearly every box of this risk profile based on revelations in the New York Times from his long-secret tax records that former intelligence officials and security experts said raise profound questions about whether he should be trusted to safeguard U.S. secrets and interests.

The records show that Trump has continued to make money off foreign investments and projects while in office; that foreign officials have spent lavishly at his Washington hotel and other properties; and that despite this revenue he is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt with massive payments coming due.

“From a national security perspective, that’s just an outrageous vulnerability,” said Larry Pfeiffer, who previously served as chief of staff at the CIA. Pfeiffer, who now serves as director of the Hayden Center for Intelligence at George Mason University, said that if he had faced even a fraction of Trump’s financial burden, “there is no question my clearances would be pulled.”

The disclosures show that Trump’s position is more precarious than he has led the public to believe, and he faces the need for a substantial infusion of cash in the coming years to avert potential financial crisis.

As a result, officials and experts said that Trump has made himself vulnerable to manipulation by foreign governments aware of his predicament, and put himself in a position in which his financial interests and the nation’s priorities could be in conflict.

Moving on, here’s today’s New York Times dispatch: How Reality-TV Fame Handed Trump a $427 Million Lifeline, by Mike McIntire, Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig

From the back seat of a stretch limousine heading to meet the first contestants for his new TV show “The Apprentice,” Donald J. Trump bragged that he was a billionaire who had overcome financial hardship.

“I used my brain, I used my negotiating skills and I worked it all out,” he told viewers. “Now, my company is bigger than it ever was and stronger than it ever was.”

It was all a hoax.

Months after that inaugural episode in January 2004, Mr. Trump filed his individual tax return reporting $89.9 million in net losses from his core businesses for the prior year. The red ink spilled from everywhere, even as American television audiences saw him as a savvy business mogul with the Midas touch…

But while the story of “The Apprentice” is by now well known, the president’s tax returns reveal another grand twist that has never been truly told — how the popularity of that fictional alter ego rescued him, providing a financial lifeline to reinvent himself yet again. And then how, in an echo of the boom-and-bust cycle that has defined his business career, he led himself toward the financial shoals he must navigate today.

Mr. Trump’s genius, it turned out, wasn’t running a company. It was making himself famous — Trump-scale famous — and monetizing that fame.

The show’s big ratings meant that everyone wanted a piece of the Trump brand, and he grabbed at the opportunity to rent it out. There was $500,000 to pitch Double Stuf Oreos, another half-million to sell Domino’s Pizza and $850,000 to push laundry detergent.

There were seven-figure licensing deals with hotel builders, some with murky backgrounds, in former Soviet republics and other developing countries. And there were schemes that exploited misplaced trust in the TV version of Mr. Trump, who, off camera, peddled worthless get-rich-quick nostrums like “Donald Trump Way to Wealth” seminars that promised initiation into “the secrets and strategies that have made Donald Trump a billionaire.”

Just as, years before, the money Mr. Trump secretly received from his father allowed him to assemble a wobbly collection of Atlantic City casinos and other disparate enterprises that then collapsed around him, the new influx of cash helped finance a buying spree that saw him snap up golf resorts, a business not known for easy profits. Indeed, the tax records show that his golf properties have been hemorrhaging millions of dollars for years.

Read the whole long, detailed article at the NYT.

I doubt if Trump’s base supporters read The Atlantic, but maybe they’ll get wind of this on Facebook or Twitter. McCay Coppins writes: Trump Secretly Mocks His Christian Supporters. Former aides say that in private, the president has spoken with cynicism and contempt about believers.

One day in 2015, Donald Trump beckoned Michael Cohen, his longtime confidant and personal attorney, into his office. Trump was brandishing a printout of an article about an Atlanta-based megachurch pastor trying to raise $60 million from his flock to buy a private jet. Trump knew the preacher personally—Creflo Dollar had been among a group of evangelical figures who visited him in 2011 while he was first exploring a presidential bid. During the meeting, Trump had reverently bowed his head in prayer while the pastors laid hands on him. Now he was gleefully reciting the impious details of Dollar’s quest for a Gulfstream G650.

Trump seemed delighted by the “scam,” Cohen recalled to me, and eager to highlight that the pastor was “full of shit.”

“They’re all hustlers,” Trump said.

The president’s alliance with religious conservatives has long been premised on the contention that he takes them seriously, while Democrats hold them in disdain. In speeches and interviews, Trump routinely lavishes praise on conservative Christians, casting himself as their champion. “My administration will never stop fighting for Americans of faith,” he declared at a rally for evangelicals earlier this year. It’s a message his campaign will seek to amplify in the coming weeks as Republicans work to confirm Amy Coney Barrett—a devout, conservative Catholic—to the Supreme Court.

But in private, many of Trump’s comments about religion are marked by cynicism and contempt, according to people who have worked for him. Former aides told me they’ve heard Trump ridicule conservative religious leaders, dismiss various faith groups with cartoonish stereotypes, and deride certain rites and doctrines held sacred by many of the Americans who constitute his base.

As world-wide coronavirus deaths pass 1,000,000, with more than 205,000 in the U.S., another source of political support for Trump appears to be weakening. Politico: ‘He just lies’: Florida’s senior voters suddenly are in play.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida seniors, long an unflinching bloc of reliable GOP votes, are suddenly in play as President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus has his reelection campaign on the defensive.

The pandemic and anxiety about possible cuts to entitlement programs have eroded the GOP’s once-solid advantage with the battleground state’s retirees, recent polls show, a demographic Republicans have won by double digits in recent presidential races.

“I really got sick of him when he did not wear a mask, and he took the control totally away from the governors. It was a very bad situation,” said Joy Solomon, a 65-year-old from Boca Raton who voted for Trump in 2016 largely because that’s who her husband supported, but who has now turned against the president. “I want this place to come back to some sense of normalcy.”

“He just lies about everything,” she said.

Retirees have long flocked to Florida’s warm climate and white sandy beaches, where they’ve gained outsized political sway in the nation’s largest swing state. In the 2012 presidential election, voters 65 and older comprised 26 percent of all votes, a number that jumped to 30 percent in 2016.

Now recent polls show Trump’s comfortable cushion with Florida seniors eroding in a state where campaigns are won on the thinnest of margins.

Read about the latest polls at the link.

With all this happening, you have to wonder how Trump can face participating in a debate with Joe Biden tonight, but that is what he’s scheduled to do tonight at 9PM. I expect he’ll be even crazier than ever–lashing out in all directions. I hope Biden can handle it. Here’s some info on tonight’s political cage match from Vanity Fair: How to Watch the First Presidential Debate Between Trump and Biden.

On Tuesday night, for the first time this election cycle, President Donald Trump and his challenger, former vice president Joe Biden, will come face-to-face to tackle a wide range of issues during the first presidential debate of 2020. Based on just the last few days alone—during which Trump suggested Biden take a drug test before the debate and the New York Times released bombshell reporting on Trump’s federal income tax returns—viewers should expect fireworks between the septuagenarians. Here’s what to know about the first presidential debate, including where to watch or stream, who will moderate, and what the candidates will actually debate….

For those interested in seeing Trump versus Biden, it will be almost impossible to miss Tuesday night’s debate. The event will broadcast live on all the major networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC), as well as cable news channels such as CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. The debate also airs via CSPAN, which will provide a live-stream on YouTube for the proceedings as well.

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace will be the moderator.

I plan to watch. How about you? If you’re watching tonight, please stop by and share your reactions. In the meantime, I hope you’ll check in here during the day and let us know how you’re doing and what you’re reading and hearing.


Lazy Caturday Reads: We Survived Another Wild Week in Trump World

Good Morning!

We’ve reached the end of another wild week in Trump World. The 2020 election is only 38 days away; on Tuesday Biden will meet Trump in the first presidential debate; and we’re still in the first wave of an out-of-control pandemic and the resulting economic meltdown. Today Trump nominates a woman to the Supreme Court who will vote to end the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade.  On top of all that, the fake “president” suggests he won’t accept the results of the election if he loses, and he’s counting on the election being decided the newly far right SCOTUS. That’s where we are right now.

Last night at his super-spreader rally in Virginia, Trump doubled down on his promise to disrupt the election. Raw Story: Trump tells supporters he won’t be ‘stupid’ enough for peaceful transition of power if he loses.

President Donald Trump continued to spread debunked conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election during a Friday night campaign rally in Virginia.

Trump argued that it was impossible for him to lose the election, thus concluding he would be “stupid” to hand over power peacefully should he lose.

“We not gonna lose this, except if they cheat,” Trump falsely claimed about the 2020 campaign, where he trails Joe Biden in national and battleground polling.

“That’s the only way we’re gonna lose is if there’s, uh, mischief,” he argued. “And it will have to be on a big scale.”

“And we do want a very friendly transition, but we don’t want to be cheated and be stupid and say, ‘oh, let’s transit — we’ll go and we’ll do a transition’ and we know that there were thousands and thousands of ballots that made the difference through cheating,” he said, repeating the debunked conspiracy theories.

“We’re not going to stand for it,” he vowed. “We’re not going to stand for it.”

Yesterday at The Washington Post, Dana Millbank brought out the Hitler comparisons: This is not a drill. The Reichstag is burning.

By Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

With his repeated refusals this week to accept the peaceful transfer of power — the bedrock principle that has sustained American democracy for 228 years — President Trump has put the United States, in some ways, where Germany was in 1933, when Adolf Hitler used the suspicious burning of the German parliament to turn a democracy into a totalitarian state.

Overwrought, you say? Then ask Yale historian Timothy Snyder, a top authority on Nazism and Stalinism. “The Reichstag has been on a slow burn since June,” he told me. “The language Trump uses to talk about Black Lives Matter and the protests is very similar to the language Hitler used — that there’s some vague left-wing conspiracy based in the cities that is destroying the country.”

Trump, as he has done before, has made the villain a minority group. He has sought, once again, to fabricate emergencies to justify greater powers for himself. He has proposed postponing elections. He has refused to commit to honoring the results of the election. And now, he proposes to embrace violence if he doesn’t win.

“It’s important not to talk about this as just an election,” Snyder said. “It’s an election surrounded by the authoritarian language of a coup d’etat. The opposition has to win the election and it has to win the aftermath of the election.”

If not? There won’t be another “normal” election for some time, he said. But that doesn’t have to happen, and Snyder is optimistic it won’t. To avoid it, we voters must turn out in overwhelming numbers to deal Trump a lopsided defeat. The military must hold to its oath. Homeland Security police must not serve as Trump’s brownshirts. And we citizens must take to the streets, peacefully but indefinitely, until the will of the people prevails.

“It’s going to be messy,” Snyder said. “He seems pretty sure he won’t win the election, he doesn’t want to leave office,” and he appears to Snyder to have “an authoritarian’s instinct” that he must stay in power or go to prison.

There’s more at the link.

My Father, by Marc Chagall

Trump has announced that he will nominate Amy Coney Barrett to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The New York Times: To Conservatives, Barrett Has ‘Perfect Combination’ of Attributes for Supreme Court.

…Judge Barrett…would be the sitting justice with the least courtroom experience, but one viewed as a home run by conservative Christians and anti-abortion activists.

“She is the perfect combination of brilliant jurist and a woman who brings the argument to the court that is potentially the contrary to the views of the sitting women justices,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion political group….

Liberal groups have been sounding the alarm over Judge Barrett for two years because of concerns over how she might rule on abortion and the Affordable Care Act.

“Amy Coney Barrett meets Donald Trump’s two main litmus tests: She has made clear she would invalidate the A.C.A. and take health care away from millions of people and undermine a woman’s reproductive freedom,” said Nan Aron, the president of Alliance for Justice, a liberal group.

Jay Michaelson at The Daily Beast: Kiss Your Rights Goodbye When Amy Coney Barrett Joins SCOTUS.

Like Judge Garland, who was denied even a hearing, Judge Barrett is unquestionably qualified. She has written numerous scholarly articles on a wide variety of legal and philosophical issues, and unlike some recent Trump nominees, appears to have a spotless ethical record.

But Barrett is also an arch-conservative who has espoused troubling views about the intersection of her personal beliefs with her role as a judge, and who will fundamentally alter the American legal landscape on a number of issues.

Obviously, abortion is the highest-profile of these, and it’s easy to see why every major anti-abortion organization in America hailed Barrett when she was appointed to the Seventh Circuit. She has criticized Roe v. Wade as “judicial fiat” and an “erroneous decision.”

By Paul Gauguin

And at a Notre Dame Law School event 2013, she asked, rhetorically, “Would it be better to have this battle in the state legislatures and Congress rather than the Supreme Court?”

That, of course, is intrinsically an anti-choice position. We don’t ask whether it would be better or worse for a state to violate constitutional rights–for Mississippi to outlaw Islam, for example, or Vermont to ban the Republican party. If a constitutional right is at issue–as the Supreme Court held in Roe–then the whole point of judicial review is that it doesn’t matter if it would be “better” for legislatures to fight it out.

Barrett has made similar remarks about same-sex marriage and is a guaranteed vote against Obamacare. On Monday, Dakinikat discussed Barrett’s extreme religious beliefs. From the Daily Beast article:

On its own, none of that matters since Barrett’s religious beliefs should have no bearing on her fitness as a Supreme Court justice.

However, Barrett has made several troubling statements regarding how religious belief impacts the roles of lawyers and judges. Most famously, she said in 2006 that a legal career should be “a means to an end,” namely “building the Kingdom of God.” Now, despite much liberal hand-wringing over this comment, it, alone, is not so problematic. It may simply mean to build a more just and equitable world, as the Bible requires. Indeed, Justice Ginsburg herself had Biblical injunctions to pursue justice on her chamber walls.

But when Barrett’s “means to an end” statement is placed in the context of other statements she has made, it raises questions. For example, in her first law review article, published in 1998, Barrett wrote that “Catholic judges (if they are faithful to the teaching of their church) are morally precluded from enforcing the death penalty.”

That is an unusual position, suggesting that a judge cannot discharge her public duty if she has a personal religious belief regarding it. Ironically, if that principle is applied to all cases in which the Catholic Church has stated moral positions, it might require Justice Barrett to recuse herself from cases regarding abortion and homosexuality, as well as the death penalty.

By Franz Marc

On next Tuesday’s debate, The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan and Josh Dawsey anticipate vicious Trump attacks: Trump readies a debate onslaught — and Biden allies worry.

President Trump is gearing up to launch blistering personal attacks on Joe Biden and his family in the first presidential debate on Tuesday, while Biden is bracing for an onslaught and worried allies are warning the Democratic nominee not to lose his temper and lash out, according to people with knowledge of the strategies in both camps.

Trump has told associates he wants to talk specifically about his opponent’s son Hunter Biden and mused that the debates are when “people will finally realize Biden is just not there,” according to one adviser. The president is so eager to lay into his rival that he has called aides to test out various attacks, focusing on broadsides that cast Biden as a longtime Washington insider with a limited record of accomplishment, said another adviser, who like many interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly describe private talks.

Biden and his advisers are anticipating a venomous barrage, according to a person with knowledge of their thinking, and they are preparing to counter with an affirmative case for a Biden presidency. The Democrat wants to stay focused on how he would address the coronavirus pandemic and the country’s economic problems, which he blames Trump for worsening.

The prospect of a cage match between a president for whom no subject is off-limits and a challenger who can be openly emotional is making some Biden advisers nervous. They see a fine line between Biden’s passion and empathy, which can appeal to voters, and the raw anger that sometimes gets him in trouble and could undercut his pitch as a calming alternative to a president who thrives on chaos.

“When you go at his family, he becomes hotter than hell, which is part of the thing I worry about,” said John Morgan, a Florida trial lawyer and major Biden donor. “I think what Biden has to be careful about is not letting his Irish temper blow when that happens.”

Would it really be so awful for Biden to give Trump a tongue-lashing? I’m not so sure.

Girl with Rabbit, Paula Modersohn-Becker

Philippe Reines writes, also at The Washington Post: I played Trump in Clinton’s debate prep. Here’s what Biden can expect.

Donald Trump is a very bad debater. Donald Trump is very difficult to debate.

These two seemingly contradictory statements are equally true. He’s a dangerous opponent. In 2016, it was because he had nothing to lose. Now, it’s because he has everything to lose.

I would know. In the last cycle, I had a unique assignment: playing Trump’s stand-in during Hillary Clinton’s mock debates. Before donning the ill-fitting suit I had tailored, my preparation included studying the 11 Republican primary debates in which Trump participated, watching each three times: once start to finish; then only exchanges involving Trump; and finally only Trump, standing at a lectern in my living room with the sound off to focus entirely on his gestures and body language.

Mimicking his appearance, gesticulations and histrionics aside, my overall approach meant zeroing in on the four topics that obsessed Trump: immigration, Obamacare, trade and “the swamp.” When he was on offense, his attacks on (and nicknames for) Clinton were honed and simple by the time the debates began in September. But he rarely, if ever, defended himself. No matter the attack against him — and there were some doozies — he dispensed with them quickly. And in the GOP primary debates, his answers involved three parts: I am great; you are terrible; and a nonsensical digression that often changed the subject entirely.

Four years later, Trump is not different, but the circumstances are. The Trump we see at the first presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday may be even harder to debate than last time, because whatever ability he possessed to engage has been subsumed by a constant need to launch into tirades over grievances. (“I sort of prepare every day by just doing what I’m doing,” he told “Fox and Friends” about his pre-debate regimen.) He exists in a double bubble — isolated in the Oval Office, consuming and regurgitating nothing but friendly right-wing media and Twitter bile. And he’s desperate: The debate presents the first big chance to shake up a race he’s losing, but he doesn’t seem to have a plan to turn things around other than to hope for Joe Biden to collapse.

Read Reines’ suggestions for Biden at the link.

Finally, at The New York Times, Hannah Beech reports that the world pities the USA: ‘I Feel Sorry for Americans’: A Baffled World Watches the U.S.

by Suzanne Valadon

BANGKOK — Myanmar is a poor country struggling with open ethnic warfare and a coronavirus outbreak that could overload its broken hospitals. That hasn’t stopped its politicians from commiserating with a country they think has lost its way.

“I feel sorry for Americans,” said U Myint Oo, a member of parliament in Myanmar. “But we can’t help the U.S. because we are a very small country.”

The same sentiment prevails in Canada, one of the most developed countries. Two out of three Canadians live within about 60 miles of the American border.

“Personally, it’s like watching the decline of the Roman Empire,” said Mike Bradley, the mayor of Sarnia, an industrial city on the border with Michigan, where locals used to venture for lunch.

Amid the pandemic and in the run-up to the presidential election, much of the world is watching the United States with a mix of shock, chagrin and, most of all, bafflement.

Click the link to read the rest.

That’s it for me. What’s happening from your point of view? I hope you all have a great weekend, and please check in at Sky Dancing blog if you have a moment free.


Thursday Reads: “Get Rid of the Ballots” — Donald Trump

Good Morning!!

The U.S. may finally have reached peak banana republic status. Can it possibly get any worse? Probably.

Axios: Trump refuses to commit to peaceful transfer of power if he loses.

President Trump repeatedly refused to say on Wednesday whether he would commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election to Joe Biden, saying at a press briefing: “We’re going to have to see what happens.”

The big picture: Trump has baselessly claimed on a number of occasions that the only way he will lose the election is if it’s “rigged,” claiming — without evidence — that mail-in ballots will result in widespread fraud. Earlier on Wednesday, the president said he wants to quickly confirm a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg because he believes the Supreme Court may have to decide the result of the election.

The exchange:

REPORTER: “Win, lose, or draw in this election, will you commit here today for a peaceful transferral of power after the election? There has been rioting in Louisville, there has been rioting in many cities across the country. Your so-called red and blue states. Will you commit to make sure there’s a peaceful transferral of power after the election? ”
TRUMP: “We’re going to have to see what happens, you know that. I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are disaster.”

REPORTER: “I understand that, but people are rioting. Do you commit to make sure that there’s a peaceful transferral of power?”
TRUMP: “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation. The ballots are out of control. You know it. And you know who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats know it better than anybody else.”

Go deeper: Trump says he wants 9 justices in case Supreme Court must decide 2020 election

Fine. But what is the FEC going to do about it? Hasn’t Trump already neutered them?

Yesterday people were talking about a startling article in The Atlantic by Barton Gellman: The Election That Could Break America. If the vote is close, Donald Trump could easily throw the election into chaos and subvert the result. Who will stop him?

There is a cohort of close observers of our presidential elections, scholars and lawyers and political strategists, who find themselves in the uneasy position of intelligence analysts in the months before 9/11. As November 3 approaches, their screens are blinking red, alight with warnings that the political system does not know how to absorb. They see the obvious signs that we all see, but they also know subtle things that most of us do not. Something dangerous has hove into view, and the nation is lurching into its path.

The danger is not merely that the 2020 election will bring discord. Those who fear something worse take turbulence and controversy for granted. The coronavirus pandemic, a reckless incumbent, a deluge of mail-in ballots, a vandalized Postal Service, a resurgent effort to suppress votes, and a trainload of lawsuits are bearing down on the nation’s creaky electoral machinery.

Something has to give, and many things will, when the time comes for casting, canvassing, and certifying the ballots. Anything is possible, including a landslide that leaves no doubt on Election Night. But even if one side takes a commanding early lead, tabulation and litigation of the “overtime count”—millions of mail-in and provisional ballots—could keep the outcome unsettled for days or weeks.

This is what Trump is counting on–that there will be an extended period of confusion and chaos during which we won’t know for sure who has won the presidential election. We already saw something like this in 2000; but in that case, Al Gore conceded and allowed a peaceful transfer of power to George W. Bush. Trump is stating clearly that he will respond differently. Here is what Lindsey Graham told Fox News today:

Returning to the Atlantic article:

“We could well see a protracted postelection struggle in the courts and the streets if the results are close,” says Richard L. Hasen, a professor at the UC Irvine School of Law and the author of a recent book called Election Meltdown. “The kind of election meltdown we could see would be much worse than 2000’s Bush v. Gore case.”

A lot of people, including Joe Biden, the Democratic Party nominee, have mis­conceived the nature of the threat. They frame it as a concern, unthinkable for presidents past, that Trump might refuse to vacate the Oval Office if he loses. They generally conclude, as Biden has, that in that event the proper authorities “will escort him from the White House with great dispatch.”

The worst case, however, is not that Trump rejects the election outcome. The worst case is that he uses his power to prevent a decisive outcome against him. If Trump sheds all restraint, and if his Republican allies play the parts he assigns them, he could obstruct the emergence of a legally unambiguous victory for Biden in the Electoral College and then in Congress. He could prevent the formation of consensus about whether there is any outcome at all. He could seize on that un­certainty to hold on to power.

According to Gellman, the Trump campaign is already working to convince state legislators in battleground states to ignore the popular vote.

Trump’s state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for postelection maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states. Ambiguities in the Constitution and logic bombs in the Electoral Count Act make it possible to extend the dispute all the way to Inauguration Day, which would bring the nation to a precipice. The Twentieth Amendment is crystal clear that the president’s term in office “shall end” at noon on January 20, but two men could show up to be sworn in. One of them would arrive with all the tools and power of the presidency already in hand.

“We are not prepared for this at all,” Julian Zelizer, a Prince­ton professor of history and public affairs, told me. “We talk about it, some worry about it, and we imagine what it would be. But few people have actual answers to what happens if the machinery of democracy is used to prevent a legitimate resolution to the election.”

Please go read the whole thing if you haven’t already. People on Twitter yesterday were calling Gellman’s piece ridiculous scaremongering, but then yesterday evening Trump came right out and said it on national TV.

NewsPressNow.com: A list of the times Trump has said he won’t accept the election results or leave office if he loses. Read the whole list at the link, here’s what he said earlier yesterday:

September 23 Oval Office: “But in terms of time, we go to January 20th. But I think it’s better if you go before the election because I think this — this scam that the Democrats are pulling — it’s a scam — this scam will be before the United States Supreme Court. And I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation, if you get that.”

He has made it clear that he expects the Supreme Court to decide the election in his favor, regardless of the how Americans vote.

This from Slate is by Richard Hasan, who is quoted in the Atlantic article:

The Trump strategy of fighting the expansion of mail-in balloting appears to be twofold. To begin with, the campaign appears to have made the calculation that lower turnout will help the president win reelection. This may explain why Pennsylvania Republicans are planning on going to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue against a state Supreme Court ruling allowing the counting of ballots arriving soon after Election Day without a legible postmark. They argue that doing so unconstitutionally extends Election Day beyond Nov. 3 and takes power away from the Pennsylvania Legislature to choose presidential electors.

The first argument is not a particularly strong one: A decision to accept ballots soon after Election Day without a legible postmark does not extend Election Day as much as it implements how election officials determine if a mailed ballot was timely mailed. It recognizes the reality that many ballots have been arriving without postmarks and uses proximity to the election as a proxy for timely voting. Virginia and Nevada recently adopted similar rules, in light of pandemic-related mail delays. The Trump-allied Honest Elections Project is fighting a consent decree over a similar extension in Minnesota.

The argument about the state Supreme Court’s ruling usurping legislative power to set federal election rules echoes a parallel claim that was made during the disputed election in 2000. The question is whether a state supreme court usurps legislative power when it interprets election rules in line with both state statutes and the state constitution. The argument that a state supreme court applying a state constitution in a voting case usurps legislative power is weak to me, but it was convincing enough for the more conservative members of the Supreme Court that decided Bush v. Gore.

The idea is to throw so much muck into the process and cast so much doubt on who is the actual winner in one of those swing states because of supposed massive voter fraud and uncertainty about the rules for absentee ballots that some other actor besides the voter will decide the winner of the election….Indeed, on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence suggested that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement needs to be seated, possibly without so much as a hearing, in order to decide “election issues [that] may come before the Supreme Court in the days following the election,” including questions involving “universal unsolicited mail” and states “extending the deadline” for ballot receipt.

Read more at Slate.

Joe Biden is clearly growing tired of his daily task of having to think up responses to President Donald Trump’s increasingly erratic comments. Asked about Trump’s latest threat, when he blatantly refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election fair and square, Biden rolled his eyes and sighed. Muffled behind his face mask, he said: “What country are we in?” Biden then briefly lowered his mask to say more clearly to the gathered reporters: “I’m being facetious—what country are we in? Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know to say.” During a White House briefing Thursday, Trump was asked if he has any intention of peacefully handing over power if he loses. The president ominously responded: “We’re going to have to see what happens.”

Let’s hope the Democrats and Biden figure out a more substantive response.

Of course we also will have to deal with Trump’s cultish supporters. Stephen Collinson at CNN: Trump’s comments send a signal to his supporters about how to react if Biden prevails.

The President’s comments risked not only dealing another blow to an election in which he has been trailing and has incessantly tarnished, but could send a signal to his supporters about how to react if the Democratic nominee prevails in 41 days. That possibility is especially dangerous given this past summer’s racial and social unrest — which burst forth again on Wednesday evening after police said two officers were shot in Louisville, Kentucky, amid protests about the failure to charge officers in the death of Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black woman.

Trump’s near simultaneous warning on Wednesday that he thinks the election will end up being decided by the Supreme Court also raises the risk of a constitutional imbroglio likely to be worse than the disputed 2000 election.

His rhetoric escalated as he yet again politicized the effort to quell the pandemic by threatening to override regulators on the question of whether a newly developed vaccine would be safe in a highly irregular move. Taken together, his anti-democratic instincts and prioritization of his own political goals amid a national emergency show he plans to allow nothing — not the health of Americans, the sanctity of US elections or the reputation of the Supreme Court — to prevent him from winning a second term.

And his comments poured gasoline on an already inflamed nominating battle to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg while threatening to drag the court further into politics in a way that could shred its legitimacy among millions of Americans.

Trump’s latest attempts to create uproar came amid new efforts to subvert the traditional mechanisms of government for his own gain — in what has become an almost daily ritual.

Obviously, there is much more news out there, including the situation in Louisville over the murder of Breonna Taylor. Please feel free to discuss any issue of importance to you in the comment thread. Take care, and I hope you’ll check in sometime today.


Tuesday Reads: Two Valuable New Books on Trump and Russia

Good Morning!!

The Trump books just keep on coming. This week and next week we’re getting two very significant releases. A new book by Tim Weiner came out today. Weiner is a historian of both the FBI and CIA. His latest is The Folly and the Glory: America, Russia, and Political Warfare 1945–2020. The Washington Post published an op-ed by Weiner yesterday: The unanswered question of our time: Is Trump an agent of Russia?

The FBI faced a national security nightmare three years ago: It suspected that the new president of the United States was, in some unknown way, in the sway of Russia.

Was an agent of a foreign power in the White House? Should they investigate Donald Trump? “I can’t tell you how ominous and stressful those days were,” Peter Strzok, then the No. 2 man in FBI counterintelligence, told me. “Similar to the Cuban missile crisis, in a domestic counterintelligence sense.”

But the Cuban missile crisis lasted only 13 days — and it had a happy ending. This crisis has no end in sight. Despite the investigation by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, despite the work of congressional intelligence committees and inspectors general — and despite impeachment — we still don’t know why the president kowtows to Vladimir Putin, broadcasts Russian disinformation, bends foreign policy to suit the Kremlin and brushes off reports of Russians bounty-hunting American soldiers. We still don’t know whether Putin has something on him. And we need to know the answers — urgently. Knowing could be devastating. Not knowing is far worse. Not knowing is a threat to a functioning democracy.

Tim Weiner

The FBI’s counterintelligence agents wondered: Why did Trump invite the Russian ambassador and the Russian foreign minister into the Oval Office on the day after he keelhauled FBI Director James B. Comey — and brag about it? “I just fired the head of the FBI,” Trump told them in confidence. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Like the rest of America, the FBI learned about that conversation only from a Russian government readout. But then Trump went on television and said he had fired Comey over the FBI’s probe into ties between Team Trump and Team Putin during and after the 2016 election.

Unfortunately the counterintelligence investigation seems to have been short-circuited by the firing of Andrew McCabe and the failure of Robert Mueller to seriously investigate Trump’s connections to Russia. Here’s Weiner’s chilling conclusion:

There’s a classic story about an American agent of influence that predates the Cold War — and might presage the strange case of Donald Trump, if these questions about his relationship with Russia go dormant. Samuel Dickstein was a member of Congress from Manhattan, elected in 1922, and chairman of the House Immigration and Naturalization Committee in the 1930s. He walked into the Soviet Embassy in 1937 and offered the ambassador his services for $25,000 a year — three times his congressional salary. In exchange, he sold fake passports to Soviet spies. And he held headline-grabbing public hearings investigating Joseph Stalin’s enemies in the United States. Dickstein served 11 terms in Congress. His file lay locked up in the KGB archives for 60 years. Today, if you go down to Manhattan’s Lower East Side, to the intersection of Pitt and Grand streets, you’ll be standing in Samuel Dickstein Plaza. He got away with it.

A related opinion piece from today’s Washington Post by Josh Rogin: Secret CIA assessment: Putin ‘probably directing’ influence operation to denigrate Biden.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top aides are “probably directing” a Russian foreign influence operation to interfere in the 2020 presidential election against former vice president Joe Biden, which involves a prominent Ukrainian lawmaker connected to President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, a top-secret CIA assessment concluded, according to two sources who reviewed it.

On Aug. 31, the CIA published an assessment of Russian efforts to interfere in the November election in an internal, highly classified report called the CIA Worldwide Intelligence Review, the sources said. CIA analysts compiled the assessment with input from the National Security Agency and the FBI, based on several dozen pieces of information gleaned from public, unclassified and classified intelligence sources. The assessment includes details of the CIA’s analysis of the activities of Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach to disseminate disparaging information about Biden inside the United States through lobbyists, Congress, the media and contacts with figures close to the president.

Andriy Derkach

“We assess that President Vladimir Putin and the senior most Russian officials are aware of and probably directing Russia’s influence operations aimed at denigrating the former U.S. Vice President, supporting the U.S. president and fueling public discord ahead of the U.S. election in November,” the first line of the document says, according to the sources.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Treasury Department have identified Derkach as a Russian agent, but it has not been publicly reported that the CIA, NSA and FBI believed Putin may be personally directing the campaign. Derkach has denied working on behalf of Moscow.

The CIA assessment described Derkach’s efforts in detail and said that his activities have included working through lobbyists, members of Congress and U.S. media organizations to disseminate and amplify his anti-Biden information. Though it refers to Derkach’s interactions with a “prominent” person connected to the Trump campaign, the analysis does not identify the person. Giuliani, who has been working with Derkach publicly for several months, is not named in the assessment.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Another book that is getting much more attention than Weiner’s is Andrew Weissmann’s inside account of the Mueller investigation, Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation. The book will be released next Tuesday.

George Packer interviewed Weissmann at The Atlantic: The Inside Story of the Mueller Probe’s Mistakes.

Andrew Weissmann was one of Robert Mueller’s top deputies in the special counsel’s investigation of the 2016 election, and he’s about to publish the first insider account, called Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation. The title comes from an adapted quote by the philosopher John Locke that’s inscribed on the façade of the Justice Department building in Washington, D.C.: “Wherever law ends, tyranny begins.”

Weissmann offers a damning indictment of a “lawless” president and his knowing accomplices—Attorney General William Barr (portrayed as a cynical liar), congressional Republicans, criminal flunkies, Fox News. Donald Trump, he writes, is “like an animal, clawing at the world with no concept of right and wrong.” But in telling the story of the investigation and its fallout, Weissmann reserves his most painful words for the Special Counsel’s Office itself. Where Law Ends portrays a group of talented, dedicated professionals beset with internal divisions and led by a man whose code of integrity allowed their target to defy them and escape accountability.

“There’s no question I was frustrated at the time,” Weissmann told me in a recent interview. “There was more that could be done that we didn’t do.” He pointed out that the special counsel’s report never arrived at the clear legal conclusions expected from an internal Justice Department document. At the same time, it lacked the explanatory power of last month’s bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report on the 2016 election. “Even with 1,000 pages, it was better,” Weissmann said of the Senate report. “It made judgments and calls, instead of saying, ‘You could say this and you could say that.’”

Andrew Weissmann

The Mueller inquiry was the greatest potential check on Trump’s abuse of power. The press gives the president fits, but almost half the country chooses not to believe the news. Congress will protect Trump as long as his party controls at least one chamber. Local prosecutors and civil plaintiffs are severely limited in pursuing justice against a sitting president. Public opinion is immovably split and powerless until the next election. Only the Special Counsel’s Office—burrowing into the criminal matter of Russian interference in the 2016 election, a possible conspiracy with the Trump campaign, and the president’s subsequent attempts to block an investigation—offered the prospect of accountability for Trump. Mueller couldn’t try the president in court, let alone send him to prison, but he could fully expose Trump’s wrongdoing for a future prosecutor, using the enforceable power of a grand jury subpoena. The whole constitutional superstructure of checks and balances rested on Mueller and his team. As their work dragged on through 2017 and 2018, with flurries of indictments and plea deals but otherwise in utter silence, many Americans invested the inquiry with the outsized expectation that it would somehow bring Trump down.

Read the rest at the Atlantic link.

Charlie Savage at The New York Times: Mueller’s Team Should Have Done More to Investigate Trump-Russia Links, Top Aide Says.

The team led by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, failed to do everything it could to determine what happened in the 2016 election, shying away from steps like subpoenaing President Trump and scrutinizing his finances out of fear he would fire them, one of Mr. Mueller’s top lieutenants argued in the first insider account of the inquiry.

“Had we used all available tools to uncover the truth, undeterred by the onslaught of the president’s unique powers to undermine our efforts?” wrote the former prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, in a new book, adding, “I know the hard answer to that simple question: We could have done more.”

The team took elaborate steps to protect its files of evidence from the risk that the Justice Department might destroy them if Mr. Trump fired them and worked to keep reporters and the public from learning what they were up to, Mr. Weissmann wrote in “Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation,” which Random House will publish next week.

While he speaks reverently of Mr. Mueller, he also says his boss’s diffidence made him ill-suited for aspects of shepherding the politically charged investigation. He saw Mr. Mueller and his deputy, Aaron M. Zebley, as overly cautious.

Mr. Weissmann also defended against accusations by the president and his allies that he and other investigators were politically biased “angry Democrats”; Mr. Weissmann said his personal views had no bearing on the crimes that Russian operatives and Trump aides committed.

And he elevates particular details — for example, emphasizing that the same business account that sent hush payments to an adult film star who alleged an extramarital affair with Mr. Trump had also received “payments linked to a Russian oligarch.” The president has denied the affair; his former lawyer Michael D. Cohen controlled the account. Mr. Mueller transferred the Cohen matter to prosecutors in New York.

More Reads, links only:

The Washington Post: Mueller prosecutor says special counsel ‘could have done more’ to hold Trump accountable.

Book review by Jennifer Szalai at The New York Times: A Prosecutor’s Backstage Tour of the Mueller Investigation.

The American Independent: Trump says coronavirus ‘affects virtually nobody’ as death toll reaches 200,000.

The Washington Post: Pentagon used taxpayer money meant for masks and swabs to make jet engine parts and body armor.

NBC News: ‘He’s not actually looking out for you’: Ex-Pence aide Olivia Troye assails Trump’s coronavirus response.

The New York Times: Trump Could Be Investigated for Tax Fraud, D.A. Says for First Time.

Jane Mayer at The New Yorker: A Young Kennedy, in Kushnerland, Turned Whistle-Blower.

CNBC: Powell pledges the Fed’s economic aid ‘for as long as it takes.’

Brian Karem at The Bulwark: The Absentee President. Donald Trump rarely shows up to the West Wing—and when he does, he is too incompetent to effectively fulfill his oath of office.

 


Angry Saturday Reads: The Worst (So Far) Has Happened

Get Angry and Stay Angry!!

Ruth and Marty Ginsburg

The worst (so far) has happened with the heartbreaking loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Trump and McConnell are determined to replace her with a right wing ideologue before the election. Democrats must fight tooth and nail to keep them from succeeding, because that was Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish.

Nina Totenberg at NPR: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Champion Of Gender Equality, Dies At 87.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the demure firebrand who in her 80s became a legal, cultural and feminist icon, died Friday. The Supreme Court announced her death, saying the cause was complications from metastatic cancer of the pancreas.

The court, in a statement, said Ginsburg died at her home in Washington, D.C., surrounded by family. She was 87.

“Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature,” Chief Justice John Roberts said. “We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her, a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”

Architect of the legal fight for women’s rights in the 1970s, Ginsburg subsequently served 27 years on the nation’s highest court, becoming its most prominent member. Her death will inevitably set in motion what promises to be a nasty and tumultuous political battle over who will succeed her, and it thrusts the Supreme Court vacancy into the spotlight of the presidential campaign.

Just days before her death, as her strength waned, Ginsburg dictated this statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

She knew what was to come. Ginsburg’s death will have profound consequences for the court and the country. Inside the court, not only is the leader of the liberal wing gone, but with the court about to open a new term, the chief justice no longer holds the controlling vote in closely contested cases.

[Emphasis added.]

NPR’s Nina Totenberg, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Rebecca Gibian)

This morning, Totenberg discussed her long friendship with Justice Ginsburg: A Five-Decade-Long Friendship That Began With A Phone Call.

In 1971, newly assigned to cover the Supreme Court, I was reading a brief in what would ultimately be the landmark case of Reed v. Reed. It argued that the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause applied to women. I didn’t understand some of the brief, so I flipped to the front to see who the author was, and I placed a call to Rutgers law professor Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

By the time I hung up an hour later, I was so full of information that I was like a goose whose innards were ready for fois-gras. I soon began calling professor Ginsburg regularly, and eventually I met her in person at a conference in New York. We never did agree what the subject of that conference was, but take my word for it, it was boring. So boring that we…well, we went shopping.

We would become professional friends, and later, close friends after she moved to Washington to serve on the federal appeals court here and later, on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Some of the stories that follow have little to do with her brilliance, hard work, or devotion to the law, or even her pioneering role as the architect of the legal fight for women’s rights in this country. Rather, they are examples of her extraordinary character, decency, and commitment to friends, colleagues, law clerks — just about everyone whose lives she touched. I was lucky enough to be one of those people.

Read Totenberg’s reminiscences at the NPR link.

Linda Greenhouse at The New York Times: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court’s Feminist Icon, Is Dead at 87.

.Barely five feet tall and weighing 100 pounds, Justice Ginsburg drew comments for years on her fragile appearance. But she was tough, working out regularly with a trainer, who published a book about his famous client’s challenging exercise regime.

As Justice Ginsburg passed her 80th birthday and 20th anniversary on the Supreme Court bench during President Barack Obama’s second term, she shrugged off a chorus of calls for her to retire in order to give a Democratic president the chance to name her replacement. She planned to stay “as long as I can do the job full steam,” she would say, sometimes adding, “There will be a president after this one, and I’m hopeful that that president will be a fine president.”

When Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired in January 2006, Justice Ginsburg was for a time the only woman on the Supreme Court — hardly a testament to the revolution in the legal status of women that she had helped bring about in her career as a litigator and strategist.

Her years as the solitary female justice were “the worst times,” she recalled in a 2014 interview. “The image to the public entering the courtroom was eight men, of a certain size, and then this little woman sitting to the side. That was not a good image for the public to see.” Eventually she was joined by two other women, both named by Mr. Obama: Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Elena Kagan in 2010.

After the 2010 retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens, whom Justice Kagan succeeded, Justice Ginsburg became the senior member and de facto leader of a four-justice liberal bloc, consisting of the three female justices and Justice Stephen G. Breyer. Unless they could attract a fifth vote, which Justice Anthony M. Kennedy provided on increasingly rare occasions before his retirement in 2018, the four were often in dissent on the ideologically polarized court.

Justice Ginsburg’s pointed and powerful dissenting opinions, usually speaking for all four, attracted growing attention as the court turned further to the right. A law student, Shana Knizhnik, anointed her the Notorious R.B.G., a play on the name of the Notorious B.I.G., a famous rapper who was Brooklyn-born, like the justice. Soon the name, and Justice Ginsburg’s image — her expression serene yet severe, a frilly lace collar adorning her black judicial robe, her eyes framed by oversize glasses and a gold crown perched at a rakish angle on her head — became an internet sensation.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Ginsburg biographer Irin Carmon at New York Magazine: The Glorious RBG: I learned, while writing about her, that her precision disguised her warmth.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg used to instruct her clerks to get it right and keep it tight, so I’ll try to do the same. Only someone so stubborn and single-minded, someone so in love with the work, could have accomplished what she did — as a woman, survived discrimination and loss; as a lawyer, compelled the Constitution to recognize that women were people; as a justice, inspired millions of people in dissent. (I asked her once in an interview what she had changed her mind about and she refused to answer. “I don’t dwell on that kind of question,” she said. “I really concentrate on what’s on my plate at the moment and do the very best I can.”) What made her RBG would also enact the most tragic and sickening ironies of today.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The feminist with a fundamentally optimistic vision, who believed that people, especially men, could be better, might be soon replaced by the rankest misogynist. The litigator and jurist who long subordinated her own immediate desires to the good and legitimacy of institutions, who had preached that slow change would stave off backlash, lived long enough to see Trump and the Federalist Society tear off the Court’s thin veneer of legitimacy anyway. In the 2013 voting-rights dissent that earned her the Notorious RBG nickname, Ginsburg offered an addendum to Martin Luther King Jr.’s suggestion that the arc of history eventually bent toward justice: “if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion.” She was thus committed. Still, today she leaves the work not only unfinished but at risk of being undone.

Ginsburg was born in 1933 in Flatbush, and her stoicism was forged in a childhood spent in a house that, she said, bore “the smell of death.” When she was 2, her only sister died of meningitis; one day short of her high-school graduation, her mother died of cervical cancer. Celia Bader, who had once broken her nose reading while walking down the street but whose sweatshop wages had gone to her brother’s education, left behind secret college savings for her daughter and a will to accomplish what Celia had been denied.

Click the link to read more about Ginsburg’s life.

What can Democrats do to honor Ginsburg’s dying wish? Some possibilities:

David Corn at Mother Jones: To Honor Ginsburg, Democrats Have One Choice: Go Nuclear.

What is coming, at least as the Republicans see it, is a grand political clash. They have been hellbent on reshaping the entire federal judiciary and especially drool over the prospect of locking the highest court into a right-wing course that will last decades and counter demographic trends that favor Democrats. This is their Holy Grail….So Ginsburg’s departure is a gift for Trump. If there has been any erosion occurring on the edges of his conservative and evangelical base, his effort to shove another anti-choice, pro-corporate conservative on to the highest court could certainly shore up that ground for him….

Ginsburg, a hero of female empowerment and of the Supreme Court, deserves much mourning. But Democrats and progressives can waste no time prepping for the battle royal that lies ahead. After all, it took Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell mere minutes after the news of RBG’s passing to declare that the GOP-controlled Senate will vote on whoever Donald Trump sends its way to fill the Supreme Court vacancy—a direct eff-you to the Democrats after McConnell in 2016 refused to consider President Barack Obama’s SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland with the phony-baloney argument that the Senate should not consider new justices during an election year. So yes, Dems will have to organize, but they must do more: They have to get ready to rumble….

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Hillary Clinton

It will be bare-knuckles politics from the right. Do or die. By any means necessary. To replace Ginsburg with a young right-wing extremist. And for the Democrats to have a chance of thwarting them, they must realize that this fight is not only a matter of persuasion….

The win-over-reasonable-Republicans-with-reason strategy is weak sauce. That leaves the Democrats with one other choice: total political warfare. The Senate’s Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer—with the backing of Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi—needs to threaten massive retaliation. Should McConnell try to ram a Trump nominee through, Schumer ought to vow that the Democrats, if they win back the Senate and Biden is elected president, will demolish the filibuster, which will allow the Senate to proceed to make Washington, DC, a state (two more senators, who are likely to be Democrats!) and that they will move to add two or four more seats to the Supreme Court. (There is nothing in the Constitution that limits the court’s size to the current nine justices.) In other words: They will implement a Republican nightmare (which, as it happens, can be justified on arguments of equity and fairness).

Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast agrees with Corn: Here Are the Ways to Stop Mitch and Trump From Replacing RBG.

Trump and McConnell will move to put a hard right-winger on the court before the election. Don’t be naive. Don’t think: “They wouldn’t possibly try that.” Of course they would. And if (I hate to be macabre here, but I’m just making a point) Stephen J. Breyer were to perish tomorrow, they’d move to put two right-wingers on the bench before Election Day. It is who they are.

What power can stop them? There are only three that potentially could. Let’s look at them.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

One, the Democrats. Some Democratic senators who might have Mitch’s ear, say Joe Manchin, will go to him. And Mitch will say: Fuck off. However, the Democrats have a card to play here, if Joe Biden will play it. The number nine (of Supreme Court justices) is neither in the Constitution nor law. Biden, and Chuck Schumer, can say: If you fill this seat now, if Biden wins, we’re expanding the Court to 11 or 13, and your majority is dead. And they should be ready to do it.

Two, public opinion. I expect polls will appear in the coming days showing majorities agreeing that no appointment should come until after we have a new president. As I’ve often written, our democracy is corrupted and screwed, but it’s still enough of a democracy that public opinion actually matters. Sometimes. And I think this is probably one of these times.

Three, kind of an ancillary point to public opinion: the fate of Republican senators up for re-election in tough states. Already, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, not up for re-election, has apparently said she will not confirm a justice until the next president is sworn in. That’s one. Democrats would need three more to say that they’ll follow Murkowski’s lead. Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, and Martha McSally seem the obvious choices. There are others. It all depends on the degree of progressive mobilizing in those states, to make those GOP senators know that if they acquiesce to McConnell’s games, they will lose. And of course there’s Mitt Romney, who does not face re-election but who might cast another conscience vote.

So all is not lost yet. But gear up for a fight. And as you do, always leave time in your mind for this remarkable, towering American. Everything we do in this corrupt period should be to honor all that she stood for.

We are already far down the road to autocracy, as Dakinikat wrote yesterday. We have to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life by fighting as hard as we can. As David Corn wrote, we have to bring a bazooka to the GOP’s gunfight.

Anger is an energy.